3 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Need to Test Their Limits

3 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Need to Test Their Limits

Inspiration Parenting Startup Grind

This past Father’s Day I received a card from our entrepreneur son, Joshua, with a hand written note inside.  It was a very nice, heart felt note and in part of it he thanked me for challenging him.  I’ve told him on more than one occasion that if he could survive me, he’d be OK.  When he was younger, he didn’t appreciate what that meant as much as he does now.  When he was 17 the ARK Challenge business accelerator tested his limits . . . and he stood up to the challenge.  Fourteen hour days, a high level of competition, countless deadlines, multiple failures, and constant learning.  Why is it important that entrepreneurs routinely test their limits?

  1. We must routinely test our mental toughness, our physical endurance and our ability to perform under pressure. – We will be tested to our limits many times in our quest for success.  We will have to deal with the stress of running out of money, product issues with a deadline looming, firing people (sometimes even our co-founders), and our loved ones needing our attention when we cannot give it.  Will better planning, strong leadership, and hiring the right people help us avoid stress and tough decisions?  Yes, but we have no control over many factors that can cause our company to spin wildly out of control and create challenges.  It’s all about being prepared to handle whatever comes our way.
  2. We should test our limits in controlled environments –  I test my mental toughness and physical endurance five times per week in the gym.  I try to embrace the stress of deadlines and finalizing deals.  I also have quiet time and practice my faith as a form of meditation.  I do it because I need to know that I have the mental toughness, physical endurance, and confidence to deal with any challenge.  As entrepreneurs we also must be self-aware and assess our own performance in pressure packed, challenging situations.
  3. Gather data on our own performance – While we may not be able to do it in the heat of the moment, we need to assess what happened after the fact and ask ourselves and others how we performed.  We have to be brutally honest in these assessments to identify what we did well and where we need work.  Once identified, we can pinpoint strategies for improvement and to make us better prepared.  Knowing we are prepared to handle whatever comes will give us the confidence to embrace stress and challenges.

THE TAKE AWAY:  The Boy and Girl Scouts got it right with their moto of BE PREPARED.  It takes all we have to be successful entrepreneurs.  With the odds of success already stacked against us, we must do everything we can, that is moral and legal, to gain an advantage.  Most things we can do are pretty basic and just as important in our daily routine as our most important meetings or product deadlines.  Even if you don’t like doing it, push yourself to be organized, plan ahead, exercise, eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, practice quiet meditation, and be thankful for your many gifts and opportunities every day.  A positive attitude and confidence may be our best tools for dealing with adversity.

4 Things We Don’t See Prior to Success

4 Things We Don’t See Prior to Success

Preparation skills Startup Grind

When I see successful athletes, entertainers, artists or entrepreneurs I often think how easy they make it look to be successful.  They are so good at what they do that it can make the rest of us think that with just a little effort we too can make a one handed catch in the end zone, hit a 400-foot homerun or a three point shot to win the game, or achieve fame and wealth as an entrepreneur.  However, what we don’t see that led up to this level of achievement is important to understanding how they can do what they do.

  1. It starts with natural gifts – Early in their lives most of these high achievers figured out special gifts and talents they were born with. While it was not always obvious what those gifts were, they somehow figured out that they were faster or stronger than most of the other kids in the neighborhood, they could pick out tunes on a piano by ear, or that engineering projects or seeing things through an entrepreneurial lens came easy for them.
  1. Passion – Being naturally good at something is great, but if you don’t have the passion to make it “the thing you must do”, you aren’t likely to become world class at it. Are you willing to use almost all your free time to pursue it?  Would you do it all day if someone didn’t stop you?  Can you do it over and over and never tire of it?  Do you feel incomplete if you don’t do it?  That is exactly how many successful people feel about what they do.
  1. Perseverance – I’ve written about Gladwell’s 10,000 Hours Rule several times in this blog and I believe it is a key element in great success. The concept states that it takes a person 10,000 hours to master a set of skills.  That’s approximately 20 hours per week, 52 weeks per year for 10 years.  There are plenty of examples of how this played out with folks like Bill Gates, a host of professional athletes and others.  The point is that natural gifts and passion are great, but the perseverance required to push yourself to get better, to work on a project, finish a painting, or expose your body to intense physical training even when you don’t really want to or don’t think you can, is absolutely necessary to success.  Our entrepreneurial son Joshua (Battle Map) likes this quote from Lionel Messi, a world class soccer player, “I start early, and I stay late, day after day, year after year, it took me 17 years and 114 days to become an overnight success”.  Natural gifts and passion are inherent, but perseverance can be taught and is driven by heart.
  1. Support – I don’t know of any truly successful athlete, artist or entrepreneur who didn’t have great support from some source. Parents, coaches, teachers, and mentors all play a role in the lives of successful people.  Sometimes it’s a network of support and sometimes it’s just one person who has a profound influence.  This support must be there because there will be many obstacles along the path to success.  Without strong support, any of these obstacles, including injury, death of a loved one or friend, poverty, self-doubt, drugs or alcohol, can stop all progress toward the ultimate goal.

Young entrepreneurs, if you can combine these elements, people may one day say about you, “she’s an overnight success”, “man, he’s got it easy”, and “I wish I had her life”.  What most people will never understand, because you make it look so easy, is what it takes to get there.

THE TAKEAWAY – Finding your gifts and passion is a bit of a scavenger hunt.  You have to try many things and be open to the clues that indicate your gifts and passion. Once discovered, we must identify those who can support us and then do whatever it takes to get to better each day, each year until we achieve success.

The Startup Grind

The Startup Grind

Startup Grind

It has been quite a journey so far for our young entrepreneur.  He still feels “lucky” to have the opportunity to pursue his passion at such a young age, but some of the realities of the startup life (listed below) have certainly challenged him.  We call it the startup grind for a reason.

  • Incremental pace of new product developments
  • Working alone most of the time
  • Lack of young entrepreneurial peers in the area
  • Friends have gone to college in cities hours away
  • General feeling of a lack of accomplishment (his opinion relative to his expectations)

He is in the startup grind.  I’ve described the startup process as a month of jubilation at the launch and, hopefully, again at the end if there is a buyout event.  These periods of jubilation are bookends of a process that includes several years on the roller coaster of long hours, accelerated education, frustration, exciting breakthroughs, tremendous financial pressure, periods of feeling isolated, wonderful new connections and relationships, and fatigue.  It’s a lot to handle for a teenager and nearly impossible if not surrounded by true mentors, advisors, and resources for support.

He continues to display the resilience and drive necessary to push through the grind with his core values intact.  While this experience so far has certainly taken a toll on him at times with periods of negativity and poor diet and exercise habits, he continues to assess, adjust and make good decisions.  He knows he has much more to learn.  My observation is that he has adapted many of the Lean Canvas concepts we teach in product development to his development as a man and entrepreneur.  Pretty cool!

As Joshua, and others in the startup grind, continue(s) to survive and advance, his mother and I would like to share this prayer by General Douglas MacArthur that expresses much of our sentiment regarding our wish for him and all those on the entrepreneurial journey.

A Prayer For My Son

Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee — and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.

Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goals will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

And after all these things are his, give him, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength.

Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, “I have not lived in vain.”

General Douglas MacArthur